Friday, June 29, 2012

The Secret Number: A Short Film

I have always been concerned about the public perception of mathematics and mathematicians.  When I came across this film on io9.com, I cringed.





Once again, the mathematician is played as insane, even if he is right in the end.  However, even if there was a missing number between 3 and 4, how would that allow access to time travel and such.

Your homework assignment is to prove there is no integer between 3 and 4.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

More Middle School Robots

About a month ago, two of my colleagues and I visited the Science Camp at Mason County Middle School.  The last hour of the morning was devoted to robots.
My VEX kit.  The rolling tool box makes it easy to move, as the kit is heavy.
I was happy to be able to do the wheel size lab with students.  Speed Bot was built for this lab, but it wasn't running at the time.  The students timed the robot over five meters with two or three different wheel sizes, depending on the group.  They had to predict how the wheel size would affect the time.  It was interesting to me that some students thought the smaller wheels would make the robot faster.

The students ranges in age from 8 to 13, and were very engaged.  There were different tasks, timing, recording, and driving the robot.  With multiple trials, the students got to do each of the tasks.

In addition to teaching the students about geometry, units, and measurement, there were a few additional benefits to our Science Camp activities.  First, we got to try to sell some of the other science teachers on a robotics team.  The other is that we got to troubleshoot some of our activities for future camps.

One of the most interesting things for me today was a paper from one of the students.  She had to find the average of two numbers, and she didn't have a calculator, so she divided by two using long division.  There is something for people on both sides of the math wars, investigative learning and algorithms on the same page.
So full of win!

Robot Videos

Here are a few videos of robots working.  This is to help with the Robotics Merit Badge on which the local Boy Scout troop is working.  Enjoy.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Solar Eclipse: May 20, 2012

Today was an annular solar eclipse.  We didn't get a very good view, as the sun was setting during the eclipse.  However, I brought the family out to the college, which has a good view of the western horizon.  The physics teacher at the college pulled into the parking lot half an hour after we did, with the exact same idea.  Here are the pictures I got.

This is a projection of the Sun through my telescope.  The green circles indicate sun spots.

A close up of my viewing set-up.  You can see the Sun and my son.

This was as much of the eclipse that I could see on the cardboard.  The setting Sun grew too dim to see after this.


The setting Sun was dim enough to allow for direct photographs to be taken.  This is one of the best shots that I got.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Speed Bot

Speed Bot 1.1 with remote
I built this simple robot to bring to a middle school science class on Tuesday.  It was meant to help the students understand the effect of changing the wheel size on the speed of the robot.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to finish the robot for the class time.  That didn't work out to be a problem because the class was broken into small groups, and one group worked on finishing this robot.

The problem that the students had with this robot is that the radio control didn't work.  After a hour of researching after class, I found out that  the original VEX firmware was erased by the ROBOTC firmware, and that the robot would have to manually programmed to respond to the remote control.  The program I used can be found here.

Sharing Pencasts with my Coworkers

This was from a few days ago.  I was showing my coworkers how to imbed a LiveScribe pencast into a webpage.

Printable Notepad 1 p. 9
brought to you by Livescribe

Friday, May 4, 2012

Graduation 2012

One of the highlights of the academic year at our community college is graduation.  We're small enough that the faculty know most of the students in the ceremony.  Because we have so many first generation college students, the families of the students make a big deal out of the graduation.

Because of the weather, we had to have the ceremony indoors.  We have a small auditorium, so the graduation was held in shifts.  There were five different processions, and the families of the students filed out after each round of degree conferences.  This made for a longer ceremony, but it was much more comfortable for the people involved.  The only possible exception was the college president, who had been at the college since 6:00am.  The draw back for me is that I missed the opportunity to meet the families of a couple of my students.  I was hoping to brag about Carlos to his family.

There is already an article on the graduation on the local paper's website.  You can read it here.  One impressive feature is that it records the graduates by county.  There are 32 counties total represented, and one student from Virginia.

For good measure, here is the best picture of a Clooney that I've yet taken.  It is of the back of Nick Clooney's head.  As a former news anchor, that's an uncommon angle to get his picture.  By all accounts, Mr. and Mrs. Clooney are very friendly people.  I just never get close enough to say "hi".

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spin Bot is Here

I finally got the VEX programming cable to work, and I put together a quick robot to teach myself the basics of RobotC programming.  Hence, Spin Bot was born.

After Bug Bot, my children where thoroughly underwhelmed.  Some more details about Spin Bot can be found here.  I am moving on to a more interesting project next.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Bug Bot

Last month, I built a small robot as part of our youth robotics program that we are trying to get off the ground.  It's named Bug Bot because of the antennas that are used for collision detection.  I used Bug Bot as a demonstration of an autonomous robot.  The other robots we had were radio controlled, and I wanted something to differentiate a robot from any other toy.  I've shown off Bug Bot to a couple of groups.

The process of building Bug Bot can be found on this page.

I recently got a programming cable from VEX, and I am working on programming the PIC  Microcontroller v0.5 with RobotC.  Unfortunately, that means Bug Bot needs to be disassembled.

Image Source: shirtoid.com


So far, the programming has not gone well.  The trouble is with the cable drivers and my laptop.  I have not been able to upload the firmware required to start programming.  The other faculty member who is leading this project had similar issues before he got it to work.  I'll get it to work yet, darn it!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cub Scouts and Rockets Do Mix

Last night, my son's Cub Scout den flew bottle rockets.  The rockets use air pressure and water to launch.  A video is below.
I wish more kids had the opportunity, with or without the Cub Scouts, to do activities like this.  The materials are really cheap ($20 or so), the activity full engages students (and adults), and the students have experiences that will help them with their future learning.  Educational technology has to be more than just computers.

Plans for a simple launcher like the one I used can be found here.  A more advanced launcher, from NASA, can be found here.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Playing with Pencasts - Well, Duh Edition

I was working hard on trying to figure out how to play a pencast on my iPad.  I had downloaded a couple of PDF viewers and was trying to get the audio out of the PDF's produced by the Livescribe software.  Well, I just happened to find a video on the Livescribe website on the iPad app.

I'm a bit amused that the pencasts play on a iPad because they are based on Adobe Flash, which famously does not play on iPads.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Playing with Pencasts

I've been experimenting with my LiveScribe Echo Pen. One of the capibilities of the pen is to record writing and audio and upload both as a flash video that Livescribe calls a pencast.  My first attempt is below.  I've been able to save this as a PDF and play it back in Adobe Reader.  I have also been able to import this into MyMathLab as a media assignment.






You'll notice that the number line mentioned in the pencast, as well as the text of the problem, is missing.  I wrote both in a LaTeX document, which I compiled as a PDF document and printed onto the Livescribe dot paper.  The pen does not pick up on the printed text on the page, just the writing done by the pen.  I was able to add the problem text and number line back into the PDF version by adding them as a watermark to the Livescribe PDF in Adobe Acrobat.

The extra "hello" at the bottom of the screen was added after the original recording.  The Echo Pen picks up on its own writing even if the audio is not being recorded.  It seems that the best technique is to hand write the statement of the problem and then record the answer afterward.  The other possibility is to just stick with the PDF documents.

In all, I'm not terribly happy with the result.  I still think that this could work for making short review videos, but the guiding principle should be to get them done without worrying about the perfection of the product.

Monday, April 2, 2012

This Blog is Now Officially a Basketball Blog

The Google searches leading to my site.
The traffic on my blog is now completely overwhelmed by people looking for Anthony Davis pictures.  Basketball fever will be over tonight.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's Official, Mason County High School is Going 1:1 with iPads

Last week I wrote about rumors that Mason County High School students will all be getting iPads to use.  It was reported in the local newspaper that the School Board approved this plan

The total cost to the school system will be $850,000, spread over 4 years.  The iPads will be leased to the school district by Apple.  It was reported that the iPads will save the high school money over the long run due to savings in textbooks.  I'll believe that part when I see it.  However, I have no problem with the extra expenses if it promotes student learning.

In the end, this may not change very much for student learning.  Dan Meyer has looked at iBook offerings from Pearson and McGraw-Hill on his blog, and reports that there is little real change in the textbooks. 

If the teachers at Mason County can get beyond the old habits, this could be a great opportunity.

On a personal note, the students are getting iPad 2's, not iPad HD's.  I won't have to worry about iPad envy when they start showing up in my class.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Khan Academy on 60 Minutes

I was preparing to write a long post about the 60 Minutes story about Khan Academy.  However, Dan Meyer summed the whole interview up nicely.  I don't fee the need to add to what he said.  You can read his take here.



How Does Math Really Rate?

I was looking at the search terms that lead people to my blog.  The stats for today are below.  Usually the top search is for the Golden Arches and parabolas.  You can tell that it is March and everybody has basketball on the brain.  (I've picked Michigan State to win this year.  Don't tell anybody in Kentucky.)

Will Mason County Schools go 1:1 with iPads?

This Saturday, I was talking with a friend of mine who is a teacher at the local high school.  She told me that Apple had come to the high school to talk about putting an iPad in the hand of every student.  She asked my opinion, and I simply parroted Dan Meyer's view on iBooks 2 and Apple Author.  So really, the effectiveness of this initiative still depends on the ingenuity of the teachers.  If the teachers can see past the iBooks and use the iPad to its fullest, creative extent, then this can succeed.

Ideas like this have been considered by Mason County before.  Usually, a lack of money is the biggest obstacle.

It was only today that a new angle on this bit of gossip came to me.  I always have one section of college algebra students from Mason County each fall.  It's always been a struggle to keep the students engaged because they already know most of the content. (Most students have ACT scores to place them into Calculus.)

However, if I'm going to have a room full of students with iPads and are already prepared to go beyond college algebra, then this fall could be a really fun semester.  Here's hoping the money will be there.

Spring Break 2012 is Here!

The college is off for spring break this week.  I have many things to share.  Unfortunately, my wife thinks that spring break is for house cleaning, so I will share in between bathroom cleanings.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Playing with Robots

One of the faculty members at MCTC roped me into helping build a robotics team in Maysville.  He was nice enough to lend me one of his VeX robot kits.  I just finished my first robot.  The intention of the kit was to build a remote controlled robot, but I decided to start with an autonomous robot. 

The problem with building an autonomous robot is that the programming requires extra cables and software, which I am missing.  The robot is supposed to detect when it has hit a wall, backup, and turn.  As you can see, it does not backup far enough to miss the obstacle.
Picture of the construction steps can be found on my Google Sites website.

Future robot events include Farm and Family Night at the college this coming Tuesday, and the Robotics Merit Badge with the Boy Scouts in April.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Course Redesign in a Meme

Two of my colleagues and I are giving at talk about our course redesign efforts at MCTC.  I'm making a meme about course redesign.  It has too much truth in it, so I won't use this exact version for the talk.
You can apply it to so many educational reforms.  Use it as you wish.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Math at Dinner

Tonight, my wife and I went to dinner at Penn Station.  The kids are at their grandparents for the night.  I found this ad on one of the tables.  With permission, I took it home.
The top of the ad.
The whole ad, unfolded.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rick Santorum Helps Me Out (Mathematically, That Is)

I was looking for an interesting graph for my College Algebra students today, and this is one that I came across.  It shows the poll numbers for the Republican Primary candidates in Michigan.  The graph comes from Talking Points Memo.
Image from talkingpointsmemo.com
To put it mildly, I am not a supporter of Rick Santorum's politics.  With that said, this graph is interesting mathematically.  It has a local minimum, local maximum, and inflection point (which is hard to see).  What else could I ask for?

Comments are off to head off any political bickering that is not math related.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sharing My Toys - Technology Evaluations

One of my jobs for this semester is to evaluate a few pieces of technology and judge their usefulness for distance learning.  The three gadgets I'm working with are the Apple iPad 2, LiveScribe Echo pen, and Sony Bloggie Camera.

Apple iPad 2
My iPad 2 connected to a monitor via a VGA Adapter
I've had the original iPad for a while, and this fall I got an iPad 2.  I've been using the iPad 2 for a while, and I pretty happy with it.  The addition of two cameras was a big improvement over the iPad.  Also, the Reminders that came with iOS 5 finally gave the iPad 2 all the functionality of my old Palm Pilot.  This iPad has 64 GB of storage, and comes with wi-fi but no 3G.  One objection I have to owning a smart phone is paying for a data plan, so living without 3G is just fine by me.

Strengths for Students:
  • The battery life is incredible.
  • Versatility is possible through thousands of apps.
  • It is dependable and stable.
  • Facetime and web browsing are useful for online classes.
  • Cameras are good for recording students' work.
  • It is small and portable.
  • Everybody wants one.
Strengths for Teachers:
  • Same as for students.
  • Keynote is good for displaying PowerPoint presentations written on a PC.
Weaknesses:
  • Apple has a high level of control of the software available.
  • No Flash Player is available.
  • You must interface to a computer to activate the iPad.
  • Touch screen keyboards and autocorrect are a horrible combination.
  • Extra accessories are required to bring it up the functionality of a cheap netbook.
I would like to play with a few Android tablets in the future for comparison.  On the whole I would recommend its use.  If I were able to give myself over to the cult of Apple, I could get even more use out of it.

The nickname of my iPad is "Tricorder".  I'm starting to realize how much of a Trekker I really am.

Livescribe Echo Pen
The Livescribe Echo Pen with Notebook
The Livescribe calls the Echo Pen a smart pen.  Inside of the pen is a camera which is able to track the position on the paper and the pen records the writing on the page and the audio at the same time.  It is possible to upload the audio and writing to a PC and save it as a PDF document with embedded audio or as a pencast.  The latter is a product of Livescribe.  This pen has 4GB of storage, which is good for several hours of recording.

I've been using it to take notes at meetings.  The first meeting I used it in was a particularly contentious faculty meeting, where I got some background audio that the speakers might not have wanted recorded.

I also want to use it to create short videos on solving problems for my students.  The goal of the videos would be to model good homework habits to students by capturing my writing and audio in real time.  There are other ways to accomplish this goal, but the Echo Pen makes it very easy.

Benefits to Students:
  • Student can record lecture notes to get the audio and not worry about writing down every detail.
  • Allows students to e-mail written notes for distance learning classes.
  • Has several apps that can be controlled by touching the pen to certain places on the notebook.
  • Battery life and storage capacity is excellent.
  • The audio can be accessed through the pen or through the computer.
  • Writing can be saved to a PDF document.
  • The pen is small and rugged.  You can carry it in a backpack and not worry about it getting damaged.  Notebooks are also more rugged than a tablet or laptop.
  • You can still write with the pen even if the batteries die.
Benefits to Teachers:
  • Same as for students.
Weaknesses:
  • The pen only works with the provided paper.  It is possible to download and print paper from Livescribe, as well as buying special notebooks.
  • The apps are useful, but controlling them through the paper can be cumbersome.
  • It is not possible to directly export the writing as any other format than PDF or pencast.
  • The rechargeable batteries are at the top of the pen, throwing off the balance. 
I would recommend this for any student.  The price is pretty good, and it could withstand the abuse that a typical high school student would deal out to it.

Continuing with the Trekker theme, my pen is nicknamed "Yeoman".

Sony Bloggie Camera
Sony Bloggie Camera
This is the one piece of technology that I asked for from the college.  It is Sony's version of the famous Flip camera.  I wanted it to have it to shoot videos in the style of Dan Meyer.  In fact, I got to shoot video of Dan Meyer with it.  I've put it to pretty use so far, and I wish I had more opportunities to use it.  The 4GB of memory is good for two hours of High Definition recording.

Smart phone cameras work about as well as the Bloggie, but you only pay once for the Bloggie.

A video from the Bloggie is below.
Benefits to Students:
  • Not many.  You don't want to give a camera to student because you never know what you'll get back on that camera.
Benefits to Teachers:
  • The camera is easy to carry.  You can use it to capture candid moments.
  • The camera records in HD.
  • The camera can take photographs while recording video.
  • There are several different resolutions available.
  • An on board USB interface make connection to a computer easy.
Weaknesses:
  • Battery life is limited.  Recharging is only possible through the USB interface.
  • The only storage is internal memory.  It is not possible to augment the memory with an SD card.
  • The camera only records for 30 minutes at a time.  You need to restart recording for events longer than 30 minutes.
  • The camera does not have as many controls as a control freak like me would prefer.  White balance is a real problem.
Overall, the Bloggie does well for amateur video.  It will not work for professional video.  The ease of use and cost make it a worthwhile addition to the technology collection of an academic department.

The Bloggie does not have a Star Trek related nickname.

These are the gadgets I'm working with right now.  I'll share if I have any new revelations or new gadgets to share.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Really Long Arms of Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis (image from kykernel.com)
I've been helping to beta test Dan Meyer's 101qs website.  I'm posting this picture here so I can post it over on 101qs.  The original source can be found here.

Anthony Davis is a candidate for the NCAA Defensive Player of the Year.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Trip to the Morehead Space Science Center

Last Friday, the Math, Science Organization, which is the science club at my college, visited the Space Science Center at Morehead State University.  We usually visit once a year.  The students enjoy visiting the Star Theater.  The faculty enjoy visiting the labs.  Everybody enjoys dinner at Pasqualle's afterward.

The tour was given by Eric Thomas, who was very generous with his time.

One of the additional purposes for our trip was to return the Space Cube.  Last year, Dr. Bob Twiggs gave our college the opportunity to put an experiment on the International Space Station.  That would make our community college the first to do so.  Unfortunately, the time and financial costs are too high for us to take advantage of Dr. Twiggs' generous offer.

The space cube with some donated components

One of the projects that the Space Science Center is work on is launching weather balloons.  A weather balloon launch costs around $700.  That fits very well into a community college.  We are trying to make arrangements with Mr. Thomas to tag along on some of their flights.

The end of the tour was a demonstration of their planetarium, the Star Theater.  For the astronomical portion we saw one of the programs on the different galaxies and a demonstration of the capabilities of the planetarium with images from the solar system.  Afterward, we were treated to a laser show featuring rock from the Eighties.  This year, I managed to stay awake through the whole show.  Two years ago, I fell asleep and snored through the show.

Pictures from the trip follow.

Did somebody say "Road trip"?

The Moon over the Space Science Center

These are CubeSats which are one of the major focuses of the Space Science Center

These are the students who attended the trip, with advisor Mr. Scott Stauble (bottom of stairs) 

Eric Thomas shows the group a model of the CXBN nano satellite

A view from inside the anechoic chamber

Mr. Thomas talks about the S-band receiver for the radio telescope

A view of the 21 meter radio telescope from the control room

Dinner at Pasqualle's

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Who is the Un-Khan? A Four TED Talk Showdown

Oddly enough, on the day that Proposition 8 was struck down in California, the meatiest thing I read on the internet today came from Dan Meyer.  In his post What Silicon Valley Gets Wrong About Math Education Again and Again, he argues that computer companies or educational technology companies make the mistake of limiting the mathematics that student learn to fit the available technology.  Basically, the companies are starting with the answer and then looking for the question.

The limitations of using computer technology for student assessment is that higher comprehension can be measured.  Computers can mark correct a problem that is multiple choice, a number, or an algebraic expression.  If you want to talk about a more complex problem, you have to compress it into one of those formats.

My experience with computer based assessment entirely fits Dan's complaints.  We've been using MyMathLab in our transitional (a.k.a. developmental) algebra classes for several years.  We don't rely on it exclusively for student assessment.  In fact, we kept some pencil and paper homework as part of our algebra redesign with the Emporium model.  I've noticed that the students are finishing the MyMathlab homework and struggling with the pencil and paper homework.  Most of that is due to the fact that the students don't have to read the instructions with the computer homework.  The computers prompt them for the required information.

More to Dan's point, we don't use MyMathLab in College Algebra because we use a modeling approach.  We would prefer that the students are able to find a best-fit line for data than solve an absolute value inequality.

Dan's post got me to think about the alternatives to computer based delivery and assessment of mathematics, of which I can think of three.  The debate begins now, in TED Talk format.

Salman Khan


He tasks me. He tasks me, and I will have him. (image from hark.com)
The poster child for computer based instruction is the Khan Academy.  The effectiveness for the Khan Academy is hotly debated, to say the least.  I'll let Salman Khan speak for the pro computer delivery side.




From the title of this post, it's clear that I'm not a supporter of Salman Khan.  I believe that he is making an honest attempt to contribute to education.  My complaint is that he is just delivering traditional lectures in YouTube format.  It's not fundamentally any better.

Whenever Khan Academy is mentioned, there are two people who are often brought up as alternatives.  They are the next two participants in this debate.

Conrad Wolfram

And to prove my sincerity, I will now kill one of the prisoners. (image from squarespace.com)
Conrad Wolfram has a completely different approach to the future of mathematics education than Salman Khan.  His view is to move all of the computational tasks from the student to a computer.




I've critiqued Wolfram's approach before.  To summarize, I think this method encourages students to rely too much on trial and error and does not require them to understand the mathematical underpinnings of the computer program.  In my opinion, a modeling only approach creates as many problems as it solves.

(For the record, at our college the modeling is limited to college algebra.  The other algebra classes are taught in a more traditional format.)

Dan Meyer

 Khan, I'm laughing at the "superior intellect." (image from blogspot.com)
Dan Meyer is often mentioned as an alternative view to Salman Khan.  Whenever I'm reading a discussion on the Khan Academy, I'm usually the one who drags brings in his name.




Meyer's approach to teaching is more Socratic than Khan and Wolfram.  He encourages direct instruction when it is warranted, but he is known for using multimedia to prompt questions from his students.  Formulating good questions is his passion.  (Meyer is unique in this list because he is the only one with teaching experience.)

The final person in this debate is the one person who I think could pull off a computer based curriculum and make it work.

Will Wright


 V'ger... expects an answer.  (image from blogspot.com)
Will Wright is the creator of the Sim City games and Spore.  His education was at a Montessori School, and  he credits his education as inspiration for his games.




The Montessori connection is what first brought Wright to my attention.  I'm a big supporter of Maria Montessori, and have written about her before.  I don't like to say "ahead of her time" often, but I don't hesitate to use use it to describe her.  (More on that in a future post.)  I would also apply "ahead if his time" to Wright as well.

The beauty of Wright's games is that the notion of winning is completely up to the player.  The games are more simulations than games in the traditional sense.  However, inside of Spore are achievements that players can unlock.  The achievements give feedback to the players that they have accomplished something.  Achievements are uploaded to the spore website so players can share their progress.

In addition to the achievements, players are able to create their own environment.  The amount of customization increases as your creatures evolve.  Creations can be uploaded to the spore website for players to share as well.

Applying the nexus of creative play, open ended game play, and player achievements to education would be a powerful tool.  Jane McGonigal has the same idea (her TED Talk is here).  I think that if there is anybody who has the technical knowledge and creativity to put the pieces together, it would be Will Wright.

I'm not aware of Wright making a push into the educational world in the same way as Bill Gates.  However, he is thinking about education.  One video is here.  Even if he is not involved directly, perhaps there is a way to take inspiration from his work to bring his style of game play into the educational arena.

Here are four different approaches to educational technology.  Some approaches are better than others, but each brings something to the discussion.  I would encourage any educator to think about their students when using any technology.  The real drain on student learning is when we as teachers forget our audience and start applying "one size fits all" solutions.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Now I Have to Worry About Students Financial Aid Too

In the past, I haven't worried about students' financial aid.  I let them worry about the consequences of not completing classes, even when advising them.  I've never had students who had problems continuing their financial aid, until this semester.

At the start of the fall semester, there was an article in the Lexington Herald Leader that listed the default rates for the colleges in Kentucky.  Of the community colleges in Kentucky, ours had the highest default rate.  Needless to say, our administration wasn't happy about that.  At the same time, Congress tightened the rules for satisfactory academic progress (SAP).  That means that more students are not meeting SAP, and the college is more reluctant to make exceptions through appeals.

Photo Credit: Lexington Herald Leader

These changes were concrete for me at the start of this semester, when I had one student who came to my office asking for me to help her with her appeal.  She had 37 credit hours of transfer credit from Kaplan University and University of Pheonix.  These credits did not count towards her Associate of Science degree, but did count against her SAP.  I helped her complete a degree completion plan for her appeal, but her appeal was denied.

Reflecting on the student's situation, there is plenty of blame to go around.  The student wasn't completing her courses and she had been self-advising. I've haven't been tracking down students who have been self-advising, and I have never mentioned financial aid in advising.  Also, online, for-profit colleges are notorious for exploiting financial aid.  My student was in their key demographic.  She is a working mother who is looking for education for a better job.  In fact, Kaplan called the student after her appeal was denied, and said that her SAP problems weren't a problem.  I am really unhappy with online for-profit colleges at the moment.

With our developmental course redesign, we've been allowing student to carry completed units from one semester to the next.  This loss of urgency lead to some poor competition rates for our students. This semester, we've been reminding students to keep up their work so they don't face a SAP appeal.  I've noticed that the students are working harder this semester.  The downside is that I have more grading, but we will get more students through this semester.

I've never bee a professor who likes to nag students, but that is changing.  For now on, I'm always going to bring financial aid considerations when helping students make decisions.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Teaching New Year's Resolutions

It's a new year, and the new semester starts for us on January 9th.  Here are a few goals for this semester related to my teaching.

  1. Improve my teaching in developmental courses.  I have an abysmal record for teaching developmental courses, and I am teach more sections this semester.  The main problem I seem to have is assuming that students are aware of how to be successful in college coursework.  I am going to work on ways to get around a "sink or swim" attitude.
  2. Implement a standards based assessment in Trigonometry.  I am the only faculty who teaches trigonometry, so that means I can experiment a little with the course.  As a department, we like to keep the courses we teach in common as uniform as possible.  I am planning on using the KCTCS course competencies for MAT 155 as a foundation for standards based assessment in Trigonometry.  I would like to use this in all of our developmental classes in the future, but I want to pilot in a course where I have control.
  3. More projects in Liberal Arts Mathematics.  I am teaching it in a slightly different format with our teleconferencing system to remote campuses.  I am planning on using two days a week to cover a few core topics, and then having the students do projects for the rest of the material, with them making choices on what topics to use.  I have no idea of what projects I will have them do.  However, I am getting used to building airplanes as I fly them.
  4. Write exactly one blog post each week.  I have not done very good with updating this blog, so I will make an effort to do so.  With one post per week, I can come up with better topics to discuss.
I have other goals for the year, but they are not related to the blog.  They are the usual: lose weight, clean the house, get more sleep.